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Man arrested in burning of homeless man

January 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Police announced an arrest in the case of a murdered homeless man Thursday.Benjamin Matthew Martin, 30, was arrested at 11:45 a.m. Thursday in Rancho Mirage. Martin is in custody and charged in the murder of John Robert McGraham.

McGraham, a native of Los Angeles, was a homeless man who lived in Los Angeles for years on the 3500 block of Third Street. On October 9, 2008, he was doused in gasoline and set on fire. He was hospitalized but later died.

The motive for this murder remains unclear, but detectives say that the suspect Martin had a dislike for homeless people. Now city leaders applaud what detectives did in a case that garnered national media attention and outrage.

"When he did die of this horrific crime it upset the whole community, if not members of the United States as well," said L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge. "It was a national crime."

"My seasoned, tenured investigators, they were very appalled and upset by this whole crime," said LAPD Lieutenant Mark Tappan.

"There was no known motive for the killing at that time, and to this day, that motive remains unclear," said LAPD Chief William Bratton.

Detectives say there were witnesses who saw a young man running away from the crime scene. With a composite sketch and with DNA evidence left at the scene, detectives were able to find their suspect.

"Mr. Martin, the individual we have in custody -- the sketch is pretty similar," said Lt. Tappan.

Police say that Benjamin Martin was a barber who worked near the area where McGraham was burned, but they say that Martin had recently moved to Rancho Mirage.

"It was the type of crime that long hours were put in, well worth the long hours put in by everybody involved," said Lt. Tappan. "They wanted to see this concluded one way or the other. They wanted to see it concluded with the identification and the apprehension of this individual."

Martin was transported to Los Angeles from Riverside County Thursday afternoon. He will be booked into Parker Center on suspicion of murder.


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